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Short Notes

By Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield.

Short Notes January 08

Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (Apollos, Nottingham, 2007; 1239pp; £29.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84474 196 0), edited by G K Beales and D A Carson, with contributions by some eighteen scholars, is a new type of commentary in which every Old Testament quotation in the New Testament is carefully analysed and exegeted with the following questions in mind: 1. What is the New Testament context? 2. What is the Old Testament context from which the quotation or allusion is drawn? 3. How is the Old Testament quotation or source handled in the literature of Second Temple Judaism or of early Judaism? 4. What textual factors must be borne in mind as one seeks to understand a particular use of the Old Testament? 5. How is the New Testament using or appealing to the Old Testament?  6.  To what theological use does the New Testament writer put the Old Testament quotation or allusion? This is rigorous scholarship at its best. Although very much a tool for academics, local ministers too can benefit from dipping into this great work of reference. IVP are to be congratulated in keeping the price down, so that this reference work need not be bought just by libraries.

Helpmates, Harlots and Heroes: Women’s Stories in the Hebrew Bible (Westminster John Knox Press, 2nd edition 2007; 306pp; £13.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23028 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Harvard professor Alice Ogden Bellis, shows how feminist scholars have interpreted the Old Testament stories about women. The book has emerged from a series of academic lectures, and has the appearance of a university text-book, although the author maintains that it could also be used in churches and synagogues. 

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Apollos, Nottingham, 2nd edition 2007; 416pp; £17.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 197 7), by Craig Blomberg, is a major revision of the first edition published some twenty years ago. Almost all the footnotes have been updated, and two appendices on archaeology and textual criticism have been added. Although published under IVP’s scholarly imprint Apollos, it was produced for the thoughtful layman as much as the student. To that end the author has sought to write a book accessible to all, and has kept references to material in foreign languages to the minimum. This is a solid defence of the trustworthiness of the Gospels.

Disturbing Complacency: Preparing for Christmas (Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow 2007; 112pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 1 905010 370), by Lisa Bodenheim, a minister of the United Church of Christ, is an excellent collection of readings, reflections, Scriptures, for every day of Advent. It lives up to its title in all sorts of ways. Get it for next Christmas!

I Want To Live These Days With You: A Year of Daily Devotions (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2007; 394pp; £10.99 hard back; ISBN 978 0 664 23148 4. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, consists of extracts from Bonhoeffer’s writings for every day of the year. The title is taken from a line of a poem written at the end of 1944 when Bonhoeffer was in prison. In the words of the Preface, “Today his thoughts are a legacy with which we may live, in order to experience daily what it means ‘to be there for others’”.

The Confirmation Book for Adults (SPCK, London 2008; 128pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0281 05955 3), by Sharon Swain, does what it says on the tin, so to speak. It’s a confirmation book for adults - that is, it’s a book to give to adults who are thinking about confirmation. It’s not a confirmation course, although the Bible study material and questions make it easily adaptable into one. Good for Anglicans, but free churches would find much of value here as they prepare adults for other rites of Christian initiation. Good value for the price.

If you belong to one of the dwindling number of churches that still have a children’s talk, you might be interested in The Abingdon Children’s Sermon Library: Volume Two (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 122pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0 687 33397 4. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Grant D Baker, a Presbyterian pastor in Arizona. On the other hand, if you are that desperate for ideas, why not use one of the teachers in your congregation?

The Last Week: What the Gospels really teach about Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem (First published in the USA by Harper Collins in 2006, and now published in the UK by SPCK, London 2008; 238pp; £7.99; ISBN 078 90281 05983), by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, is a highly readable examination of the final days of Jesus as depicted by Mark in his Gospel.  Readers need to be aware, however, that the authors are not always presenting the generally accepted consensus of scholars, but rather their own radical version of the Gospel.

Imitating Jesus: an inclusive approach to New Testament ethics (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 512pp; £19.99 hardback; ISBN 978 0 8028 445 3. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Richard A Burridge, Dean of King’s College, London, is in every sense of the word a ‘magnum opus’ destined to be a key theological text for a good number of years to come. Scholarly, and yet accessible, preachers also will find real benefit from reading this careful study. It is a book to consult and come back to.

Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 409pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 4560 3. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Kent E Brower and Andy Johnson, consists of twenty scholarly essays written in honour of the Nazarene scholar, Alex R G Deasley. The thrust of the book is that, whereas for many Christians the term holiness evokes the thought of inward piety, in the Bible holiness is primarily a corporate issue: the people of God are expected to embody God’s holy character publicly in particular social settings.

Looking for a new way in to a sermon series on the Gospels? Then why not get hold of Speaking Conflict: Stories of a controversial Jesus (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2007; 220pp; £13.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23089 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by David Buttrick, a truly great teacher of homiletics. Buttrick has previously written books for preachers on the Parables and on the Sermon on the Mount, and now turns to the conflict stories in Mark. Rich in illustration, this is a wonderful resource for preachers.

Rediscovering Paul: an introduction to his world, letters and theology (Apollos, Nottingham 2007; 350pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84474 242 4), by David B Capes, Rodney Reeves and E Randolph Richards, all American university teachers, is a well-written textbook for first year seminary students. I particularly liked the ‘So what’ and ‘What’s more’ sections where the material in question is related to the world today. 

Easter Services, Sermons and Prayers (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 99pp; £5.99; ISBN 978 0 687 64632 6. Available in the UK through Alban of Edinburgh), by American Methodist pastor, Kenneth H Carter, is a useful resource for busy preachers. Not everything will be applicable to the UK scene, but there are ideas and suggestions which certainly would work here. The sermons too have useful illustrations. In the same series is Healing Services (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 93pp; £5.99; ISBN 978 0 687 6428 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by James K Wagner, former director of prayer and healing ministries in Nashville. The first section of the book deals with practical questions relating to the healing ministry; there then follow simple liturgies and reflections. The weak dollar means these resources are attractively priced. Funeral Services (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 99pp; £5.99; ISBN 978 0 687 33506 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Cynthia L Danals, a Methodist hospice chaplain, contains sermons and prayers for all kinds of difficult funerals ranging from ‘infant dies due to mistreatment’ to ‘student dies of accidental overdose’; from ‘adult dies in work accident’ to ‘older adult dies alone’. None of the sermons could be used as they stand, but they do provide a way in to dealing with challenging death.

Keep the Call: Leading the Congregation Without Losing Your Soul (Abingdon Press 2007; 130pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 0 687 64145 1. Available in the UK from Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Jill Y Crainshaw, is about the very issue which drives Ministry Today. She divides the book into three sections: Ministry as Proclamation, Formation and Transformation, and shows how leaders and congregations need to see themselves as doing all three of these together, not off-loading the responsibility onto one another. A very good read, in spite of its obviously American context.

I can’t remember the last time I was given a book about preaching to review, but Thinking About Preaching (Epworth, Peterborough,2007; 143pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 7162 0616 30, by Michael Townsend, will quickly find its way into the hands of a couple of people in my congregation who are considering going forward to train as Lay Readers. It’s for people who are thinking about preaching and also for thoughtful preachers wanting to reflect on their own practice of the art.

All God’s Children: An introduction to pastoral work with children (New Library of Pastoral Care, SPCK, London 2007; 192pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05888 4), by Marian Carter, an Anglican priest and former teacher, is a helpful, practical book, offering theological, sociological and psychological insights about children. She points out that in many churches pastoral care is almost non-existent. Children “are considered minors and so under the care of their parents (or other carer). Thus the community of faith implicitly ignores children, and underlying this action is an unconscious acceptance of a cultural tenet - the ‘privatization of the family’”. The one drawback of this otherwise excellent book is its tendency to equate church with the Anglican church - there is a wider church out there!

A Christian Natural Theology: based on the thought of Alfred North Whitehead (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2nd edition 2007; 201pp; £13.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23018 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by John B Cobb Jr. of the Claremont School of Theology, was first published in 1965 and has now been substantially revised due to the author changing his mind on a number of issues. I personally am not convinced by the relativism of process theology. Thus the author concludes: “What Christians dare not claim for themselves or for their church, they may yet claim for Jesus Christ, namely that there the universal answer is to be found. But that could be true only if in and through Jesus Christ the truth of other religious traditions could be internalised”.  

In The End of Work: Theological Critiques of Capitalism (Blackwell, Oxford 2007; 247pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 1 4051 5893 0), John Hughes, Curate of St David’s with St Michael’s, Exeter, explores, not work, but how work can be transformed, focussing on the relationship between divine and human work. This book is the latest in Blackwells’ Illuminations series, but I’m afraid that, however much I enjoyed the author’s critique of capitalism, it didn’t tell me anything which might help me minister to the small number of employed and the many unemployed people in my parish.

Spirituality, Values and Mental Health: Jewels for the Journey (Jessica Kingsley, London 2007; 336pp; £22.99; ISBN 978 1 84310 456 8), edited by Mary Ellen Coyte, Peter Gilbert and Vicky Nicholls, consists of 24 wide-ranging essays on such subjects as ‘Spirituality and Mental Health’; ‘Who Am I? The Search for Spirituality in Dementia. A Family Carer’s Perspective’; ‘Spirituality and Psychiatry’; ‘’Spiritual Competence: Mental Health and Palliative Care’; ‘Why Mental Health Practitioners Need to Understand Spiritual Matters’; and ‘Researching Spirituality and Mental Health’. Although not a specifically Christian book, this is essential reading for any minister working in the field of spirituality and mental health.

The Barnabas Children’s Bible (BRF, Abingdon, Oxford 2007; 349pp; £12.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84101 526 2), by Rhona Davies and illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski, is a delightful collection of Bible stories retold for children.  Intended for children aged 7 to 11, it provides a year of daily Bible readings, 240 from the Old Testament and 125 from the New Testament.  Great value for money, it is a Bible to commend to parents.

As a minister always on the lookout for sermon ideas, I looked with interest at A Kingdom We Can Taste: Sermons for the Church Year (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 92pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 2747 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by David A Davis, a Presbyterian pastor in New Jersey. Alas, I was a little disappointed. These are not meaty sermons. On the other hand, to preachers who are desperate, they could contain an idea or two for their own sermons.

Beginnings and Endings [and what happens in-between] (BRF, Oxford 2007; 168pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 566 8), by Maggi Dawn, the Anglican chaplain of Robinson College, Cambridge, is a series of daily Bible readings from Advent to Epiphany. Written with lay people in mind, ministers too would find there is much food for thought here.

The Easter Stories (SPCK, London 2008; 160pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05849 5), by Trevor Dennis, Dean of Chester Cathedral, contains a host of helpful wide-ranging reflections on the Gospel stories of the resurrection, and will prove a helpful resource for preachers looking for a fresh way in to the message of Easter.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An introduction to his thought (Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts English translation 2007; 258pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 1 56563 762 7. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Sabine Dramm, fulfils its purposes, as the author helpfully links Bonhoeffer’s writings with his life.

Following God through Mark: theological tension in the Second Gospel (Westminster John Knox, Louisville 2007; 148pp; £13.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23095 1. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Ira Brent Driggers, who teaches New Testament at a Lutheran seminary in South Carolina, is a scholarly examination of the place and activity of God in relation to the disciples as found in Mark’s Gospel, with a view to throwing fresh light on the continual misunderstanding of the disciples. Intended for theological students, there is little grist for the preacher’s mill.

A Second Resurrection: Leading your congregation to new life (Abingdon Press, Nashville 2007; 126p; £7.99; ISBN 978 0 687 64653. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Methodist church consultant Bill Easum, is a hard-hitting book. Easum’s contention is that most established churches are spiritually bankrupt, therefore their most basic need is not turn-around, but resurrection! As he rightly says: “churches grow when they intentionally reach out to people instead of concentrating on their institutional needs; churches die when they concentrate on their own needs”. This lively popularly-written book would prove to be a real spiritual tonic to many pastors and their leaders.

Wanting to revamp your small groups? Then read with profit Go Big With Small Groups: eleven steps to an explosive small group ministry (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 122pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 687 49135 5). Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Bill Easum and John Atkinson. The steps are as follows: 1. Bring the lead pastor on board; 2. Convince the powers that be; 3. Build a small group management system; 4.Pray for and create a culture of multiplication; 5. Find effective small group leaders; 6. Develop several levels of leadership; 7. Avoid problem people; 8. Train your leadership; 9. Create ownership; 10. Fill your small groups; and 11. Create the appropriate small groups.

Roman House Churches for Today: A Practical Guide for Small Groups (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 221pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 0764 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by New Testament teacher Reta Halteman Finger, sets out to help small groups understand the historical and cultural context of the Book of Romans. Along with commentary, it includes role play, questions, and even a menu for a Roman meal. More expensive that than the average Bible study guide, it is much more informative and a good deal more creative.  

Tempted to leave the Cross: renewing the call to discipleship (Judson Press, Valley Forge 2007; 130pp; $14; ISBN 978 0 8170 1524 4), by the American Baptist pastor, Ernest E Flores, consists of eighteen sermons on the Cross, with one exception all based on a Gospel passage. The book is a welcome antidote to the prosperity teaching which prevails in many American churches.

Prayer in Counselling and Psychotherapy: exploring a hidden meaningful dimension (Jessica Kingsley, London 2008; 223pp; £18.99; ISBN?), by Peter Madsen Gubi, Principal Lecturer in Counselling in the University of Central Lancashire, who is also a ‘liberal Christian’ with Moravian roots, challenges therapists to recognise that in certain situations prayer is a valid ‘intervention’ tool. A spiritual revolution is clearly taking place in mainstream counselling and psychotherapy! This is a book to recommend to any Christian professional counsellor.

A Journey to the Cross: Passionate Christianity (SPCK, London 2007; 84pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05882 2), by Cally Hammond, Dean of Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, is a meditation on the five traditional ‘sorrowful mysteries’ as found in Mark’s Gospel, namely the agony in the garden, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion. This is a helpful resource for ministers wanting to preach a Lenten series on the passion of Jesus.

A workbook to pass on to your children’s leaders is The Starship Discovery Holiday Club: a five-day holiday club plan, complete and ready-to-run (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2008; 73pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 841 01545 3), by John Hardwick. It explores the life of Peter using five common spaceship images: ‘Blast off!’, ‘Beam me up!’, ‘Black hole!’, ‘Breakthrough!’ and ‘Battle stations!’ Exciting stuff!

The Ten Commandments for Jews, Christians and Others (Eerdmans, Michigan 2007; 236pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 2965 8. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Roger E Van Harn, is a fascinating collection of Jewish and Christian insights on each of the ‘Ten Words’. This would make a useful basis for inter-faith discussion. It would also helpfully inform any minister preaching a sermon series on the Ten Commandments.

God’s Ambassadors: A history of the Christian clergy in America (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2007; 366pp; £16.99 hardback; ISBN 978 0 0381 8. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by history professor, E Brooks Holifield, masterfully traces the history of American clergy - both Protestant and Catholic - from the 17th to the 21st century. I found the final section, dealing with the period 1970-2005, particularly insightful, for the author touches on a number of issues highly relevant to the UK scene too. A fascinating book.

Mentoring for Spiritual Growth: Sharing the Journey of Faith (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2008; 144pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 562 0), by Tony Horsfall, a freelance trainer, is a clear helpful guide for all those wanting to engage in the ministry of mentoring. It is also a book to commend to people in our churches engaged in pastoral care.

Through the Year with Martin Luther: A selection of sermons celebrating the feasts and seasons of the Christian Year (Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts 2007; 463pp; £10.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 59856 123 4. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Suzanne Tilton, contains 28 of Luther’s sermons (he wrote some 2000 sermons in total) together with a seven page preface by Evelyn Bence, which contains the marvellous quote: “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Ghost”! The sermons themselves belong to another world: on the other hand, we see that, although preaching styles have changed, the Gospel remains the same.

The Evangelical Universalist: The biblical hope that God’s love will save us all (First published in the USA by Wipf and Stock in 2006; published in the UK by SPCK, London 2008; 201pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05988 1), by ‘Gregory MacDonald’ (a pseudonym chosen to help focus the debate on the issues raised, and not on the person of the author), this is a carefully reasoned argument for ‘Christian’ universalism. The significance of this book is that it is written by an Evangelical, who accepts the authority of Scripture.  “Christian universalism”, he writes, “yields a theology of hope, of divine love, and presents a vision of the victory of God that has significant advantages over the tradition, with its eternal hell. It also yields an inspiring ecclesiology and missiological motivation. Indeed, it accentuates the love and grace of God without diminishing his severity and wrath. It lifts the saving work of Christ to new heights without losing sight of judgment”. This is a challenging and good read, even if one is not ultimately persuaded by its argument.

Understanding Christian Doctrine (Blackwell, Oxford 2007; 232pp; £17.99; ISBN 978 1 4051 3153 7), by Ian S Markham, an English Anglican, currently Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, is a wonderfully accessible introduction to Christian theology - or as Markham puts it in his introduction: “I have attempted to provide an attractive, plausible account of the Christian faith that takes the problems seriously”. A product of Anglican liberalism, it is also very much a book of faith. Beautifully laid out, this is a book for the theological student and the ‘intelligent lay person’.

Studying The Ancient Israelites: a guide to sources and methods (Apollos, Nottingham 2007; 232pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 225 7), by Victor H Matthews, Professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, is written as an introduction to the background of Old Testament for thoughtful lay people and theological students. It examines the insights that can be gained from geography, archaeology, literary studies, sociology, and historiography. This is a good basic study tool.

Jurgen Moltmann has been one of the great theologians of the 20th century. His autobiography, A Broad Place (SCM Press, London 2007; 406pp; £29.99; ISBN 978 0 334 04127 6) is a pleasure to read. The motivation for his writing, he claims, was in part the sheer joy of telling , but also an opportunity for thanksgiving.

The Stewardship Companion: Lectionary Resources for Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2007; 249pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 664 22993 1. Available in the Uk through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by David Mosser, a Texan Methodist pastor, is unusual in that it takes one Scripture passage from each week in the three-year lectionary cycle to provide a brief reflection on how that passage can be used to teach and preach about stewardship. The index makes it possible for this book to be used by preachers not following the lectionary.

Give God the Glory: ancient prayer and worship in cultural perspective (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2007; 283pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 4015 8. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by recently retired Jesuit New Testament professor, Jerome H Neyrey, is an exploration of early Christian worship in the context of the Hebraic ethos and the Greco-Hellenistic cultures. The author not only examines the New Testament, but also the writings of Philo, the Didache and Justin’s First Apology. This is a book for scholars.

Footsteps to the Feast: 12 two-hour children’s programmes for Christian festivals and special times (BRF, Abingdon, Oxford 2007; 234pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 464 7), by Martyn Payne, is an excellent fun-filled resource for children aged 6 to 10. In a most imaginative way it explores the feasts and festivals of Advent, Epiphany, Candlemas, Holy Week, Pentecost, Trinity, the early church, Harvest, Halloween and All Saints, St Michael and all Angels, and Bible Sunday. Children’s leaders need to be made aware of this useful tool.

Vocation: Singing the Lord’s Song (SPCK, London 2007; 112pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05962 1), by Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield, is aimed in particular at those “who feel they may be being prodded in the direction of some sort of public ministry”. My difficulty with this popular book is that it takes ‘priesthood’ as the basic model for ministry. As a Nonconformist, my reading of Scripture is that ‘priesthood’ is common to all believers, and that ordained ministry is first and foremost about leading, teaching, and caring for God’s people.

The Challenge of Cell Church: Getting to grips with cell church values (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2008; 171pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 218 6), by Philip Potter, Director of Pioneer Ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool, is a practical, down-to-earth guide, which should be read, not just by home group leaders, but also by all church leaders in general.

2 Corinthians (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 189pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 0 687 05677 4. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Calvin J Roetzel, is one of the most recent contributions to the ‘Abingdon New Testament Commentaries’ series, written with the needs of theological students in mind. Roetzel is of the view that within 2 Corinthians are to be found five letters from the Apostle. This is a good workmanlike commentary.

Greed as Idolatry: the origin and meaning of a Pauline metaphor (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 228pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 3374 7), by Australian scholar Brian S Rosner, is a detailed examination of Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5.5 and Colossians 3.5 that “greed is idolatry”. Undoubtedly there is material for a sermon here, but it is hard-going and probably not worth the effort for the average preacher.

The Bible for Sinners: Interpretation in the Present Time (SPCK, London 2008; 119pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0281 05802 0), by Christopher Rowland, Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at Oxford, and Jonathan Roberts, a lecturer in English at Liverpool University, offers a wide-ranging non-technical discussion of different types of ‘Christian’ interpretation, with examples from the past and the present. In particular they focus on questions raised by same-sex relationships, justice in society, religious heresy, and marriage and divorce. Inevitably the issue of biblical authority arises. The authors believe that the Bible cannot dictate to us what we should do in our complex and ever-changing situations, but that we need to be guided by the Spirit to look for fresh guidance. But on what basis then do we make our judgments? Furthermore, are the authors right in arguing that those with a more conservative approach to Scripture are necessarily more censorious and more hypocritical than others?    

Fans of the remarkable evangelical Welsh preacher who occupied the pulpit of Westminster Chapel for many years will no doubt be delighted with Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: an anthology of quotations from ‘The Doctor’ (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2007; 319pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 1 84227 494 1), edited by Tony Sargent. But I question whether many others will be much moved by this somewhat dated collection. The very first quotation, listed under the title of ‘Achievement’ reads: “The men who have accomplished most in this world have been theologically-minded”. The very last quotation, listed under zeal, reads: “It is obvious that you can have a wrong zeal. Zeal may be mistaken and may even be dangerous”. Would I really want to quote either saying, I ask myself?

Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church (IVP, Nottingham 2007; 199pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 214 1), by Stephen Sizer, a Surrey Anglican vicar, is a popularisation of his earlier book Christian Zionism: road-map to Armageddon? also published by IVP. Sizer takes on the Christian Zionist well and truly. He writes: “In its worst form, Christian Zionism uses the Bible to justify racial superiority, land expropriation, home demolitions, population transfer, colonial settlements, the denial of internal law and the dehumanization of Arabs. It fuels not only Islamophobia, but also anti-Semitism and Islamic retaliation against Christians”. He goes on: “I believe Jesus continues to weep not only over Jerusalem, a city whose very name means ‘peace’, but also for his children who promote a theology of war and conquest”. This is a powerful book and good to recommend to church members. It also includes a nine-page biblical exposition by John Stott on the same theme.

Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living (SPCK, London, 2007; 245pp; £?; ISBN 978 0 281 05833 4), by Nick Spencer, Director of Studies at Theos, and Robert White, Professor of Geophysics at Cambridge, presents the challenge of climate change to Christians in a very clear and helpful way. My one minor criticism is that nowhere is space given to challenging churches to do a green audit of their premises.

Building a Multi-ethnic Church (SPCK, London 2007; 161pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05905 8), by Linbert Spencer, a Salvationist whose roots are in the West Indies, offers information and guidance for church leaders. The two key challenging sentences of this book are found in the first two paragraphs: “It is a strange phenomenon in Britain, and I think in all the western democracies, that institutions, of whatever kind, find it almost impossible to respond positively to the idea that action is necessary if they are to include their minority ethnic communities...  The difficulty institutions have is one of failing to understand the difference between allowing people to participate, and actively seeking the participation of those who are not already participating”.

Jesus and Paul Reconnected: fresh pathways into an old debate (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2007; 182pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 3149 1. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Todd D Still, consists of six essays exploring the relationship between Jesus and Paul. Topics considered include the grace of God, treatment of the poor, law and gospel, Peter’s connection between the two, the Last Supper, and the death of Christ. Although these studies are not unduly technical, they will be of more interest to the student and the scholar than to the ordinary minister.

For those ministers wanting to brush up on their Greek, then Philippians: A Greek student’s intermediate reader (Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts 2007; 161pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 56563 991 1. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Jerry L Sumney of Lexington Theological Seminary, might prove a useful tool to reinforce one’s knowledge of Greek grammar while translating a book of the New Testament.

I and II Kings: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox, Louisville 2007; 476pp; £27.99 hardback; ISBN 978 0 664 22084 6. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Marvin A Sweeney, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Claremont School of Theology, is one of the most recent contributions to the prestigious ‘Old Testament Library’ of scholarly commentaries. Preachers wanting to understand the text may well benefit from this accessible scholarship; however, it is not really a preacher’s commentary.

It is reckoned that most pastors spend about one-third of their ministry hours doing administration. All the reason why we should welcome a book like Administration in the Small Membership Church (Abingdon, Nashville 2007; 102pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 0 687 64643 2. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by John H Tyson. However, the one drawback of this practical book is that some of the material relates specifically to the North American scene.

The Pocket Guide to Restorative Justice (Jessica Kingsley, 2007; 87pp £10.99; ISBN 978 1 84310 629 6), by Pete Wallis and Barbara Tudor, has been designed to be easily taken on visits or into meetings for all those involved in the criminal justice system, e.g. Youth Offending Team workers, probation officers, prison, staff, police, etc. Clear and to the point, this is a most helpful resource.

The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2008; 191pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 435 7), by Andrew Watson, an Anglican vicar in Twickenham, takes a fresh look at the leadership of Jesus by focussing on four commands of Jesus: ‘Come to me’; ‘Follow me’; ‘Wait for me’ and ‘Go for me’. A spiritual tonic for leaders!

Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Hebrews, James and Jude (Apollos, Nottingham 2007; 656pp; £19.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84474 198 4), by Ben Witherington III, is published as an academic imprint, but in fact its scholarship is so accessible that it can be used with profit by pastors and preachers. Of particular value are the ‘Bridging the Horizons’ sections, where specific help is offered to today’s preachers. My one regret is that more space is not given to these sections. However, this is a first-rate commentary which is a joy to read.

Of the writing of books by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, there seems to be no end. The Cross and the Colliery (SPCK, London 2007; 79pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05971 3) consists of a series of eight talks given in Holy Week 2007 in the Anglican church of Easington Colliery (the name of the town, and not just the pit). To a community which had known the disaster of an underground explosion in 1951, as well more recently the loss of jobs with the closure of the pit in 1993, the author deals with themes of bereavement and grief in the light of Cross and Resurrection, rooting this for the most part in the Servant Songs of Isaiah. This is a great example of down-to-earth contextual preaching.  More recently two further volumes of his have been added to the excellent ‘For Everyone’ series: Acts for Everyone, Part I: Chapter 1-12 (SPCK, London 2008; 192pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0281 05308 7) and Acts for Everyone, Part II: Chapters 13-28 (SPCK, London 2008256pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0281 05546 3). Both are excellent for personal devotion or for group study. However, I confess that I was less enamoured by Surprised by Hope (London, SPCK 2007; 352pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0281 05617 0), an exploration of the future both in terms of the Kingdom of God as also in terms of life after death. The book sadly contains little new, but is simply a re-hash of what the author has written elsewhere. There are perhaps times when an author can be too prolific!

Crying for the Light: Bible readings and reflections for living with depression (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2008; 151pp; £5.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 565 1), by Veronica Zundel, a Mennonite, is an excellent pastoral resource for ministers to commend to people suffering from depression. 

Core Skills for Children’s Work: Developing and extending key skills for children’s ministry (BRF, Oxford 2006; 96pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 1 84101 507 1), produced by the Consultative Group on Ministry among Children, is made up of stand-alone modules in six key areas: child development, leadership skills, programme planning, children and community, pastoral awareness, and spirituality and the Bible. This excellent, thought-provoking, photo-copiable resource is just the thing to give to leaders of one’s Sunday School.

The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary, available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh and edited by Joel B Green and Max Turner, differs from other commentaries in that, along with paragraph-by-paragraph theological exegesis of the text, space is also given to thematic theological reflection. Preachers should find this approach of great help. The first two volumes on 1 Peter (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 345pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 2553 7), by Joel Green, and 2 Peter and Jude (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2007; 244pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 2570 4), by Ruth Anne Reese, are certainly good value for money. 

 

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge, all 28 pages in length and costing £2.95, include:

Publicity and the Local Church (Evangelism 80, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 671 2), by Nicola David, a lively provocative guide, with many useful tips. 

Transsexualism: issues and argument (Ethics 147, first published in 1982, and now again in 2007, unrevised , with the exception of the removal of a few typographical errors and the addition of a footnote; ISBN 978 1 85174 669 9), by Oliver O’Donovan, a masterly treatment of the psychological condition which prompts people to seek surgical intervention to adapt their bodies to their self-perceived gender-identity.

Sowing in Tears: How to lament in a church of praise (Worship 193, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 668 2), by Paul Bradbury, who writes perceptively: “We have lost a critical ability in our language of faith expression to articulate anything of integrity and truth in the context of suffering and tragedy. And so we fumble around in the silence when in reality we have been struck mute. In some cases we simply blunder on with praise, papering over the growing cracks with a theology of victory and success. In others we move on swiftly, like mourners in the presence of the bereaved, embarrassed at not knowing what to say”.  

A booklet with a similar theme is Using the Psalms for Prayer through Suffering (Biblical 46, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 673 6), by Simon Stocks, who sees the psalms of lament as opening up the possibility “for engaging with God, when to do so would otherwise seem impossible”.

St Benedict for Today (Spirituality 103, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 672 9), by Mark Mills-Powell, who looks at four aspects of the Benedictine way: community, work (including corporate prayer), ‘lectio’ (reading), and hospitality.  

The main argument of Keeping our Kids (Renewal 30, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 670 5), by Chris Leach is that children need to experience God rather than merely hearing stories about him: “Unless we can show them hard evidence, unless we can help them to experience personally the God they have heard stories about, the doubts will set in and soon they will write Jesus off, along with Santa, as someone to grow out of”. 

Taking Ordinary Theology Seriously (Pastoral 110, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 658 3), by Jeff Astley and Ann Christie, as also What theology for youth work? (Youth 8, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 667 5) did not grab me - neither were particularly stimulating. 

Nor for that matter did I feel A Biblical Theology of Singleness (Biblical 45, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 665 1), by Barry Danylak, told me anything I did not already know. 

By contrast Boys, God and the Church: how churches can help boys grow in faith - and why they do not! (Pastoral 111, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 666 8), by Nick Harding, is in a different league, offering down-to-earth advice on how to stop boys leaving the church - it’s worth ordering multiple copies for one’s youth and children’s workers. 

Online Church? First steps towards incarnation (Pastoral 112, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 674 3), by Mark Howe, who examines the experience of St Pixels, an online Christian community developed from Church of Fools with help from the Methodist Church - currently it has some 500 weekly participants. 

Somewhat related is the booklet Staying Safe Online (Youth 9, 2007; ISBN 978 1 85174 675 0), by Nicola David, who concludes: “Instead of banning young people from the internet, we must understand enough to help them stay safe. We must help young people to feel comfortable seeing the internet through the filter of their faith, instead of compartmentalizing their secular and Christian lives”.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

Ministry Today

You are reading Short Notes by Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield, part of Issue 42 of Ministry Today, published in March 2008.

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Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

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